The listing: 51 Barker Ave., Toronto
Asking Price: $899,000
Taxes: $3,358.34 (2020)
Lot Size: 25- by 134-feet
Agent: Chris Neill (The Weir Team Brokerage Inc.)
The back story
Tiffany Vogel was three years old when her mother, Trudy Vogel, purchased a tiny bungalow in East York for the two of them.
The year was 1987 and bidding wars were becoming increasingly heated in the Toronto real estate market.
“I know when we first bought the house, mom had missed out on a few,” says Ms. Vogel. “She felt very lucky.”
The local library still has vintage photos of 51 Barker Ave., which was originally built as a cottage. Gradually the neighbourhood grew up around it, with postwar bungalows lining the street.
Money was tight over the years and, at times, Ms. Vogel says, her mother wondered if she would need to sell the house to pay for her daughter’s education.
“We were very house poor and many times considered selling to make ends meet,” recalls Ms. Vogel.
The thought of her mother giving up their treasured home motivated Ms. Vogel to achieve high marks in an effort to fund her postsecondary schooling. She went on to study at Oxford University on full scholarship.
Following graduation, Ms. Vogel launched her career and rose to the level of partner at the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
During her time away, Ms. Vogel always had a notion that she would like to return to Toronto and settle into her childhood home.
In 2017 she made the move back to Barker Avenue and decided to freshen up some of the dated colours and materials. With only 560-square-feet on the main floor, she didn’t see the potential to do much more.
“I would describe the initial project as a facelift,” says Ms. Vogel.
A long-time friend, interior designer Enid MacIntosh of Great Interiors, agreed to help her choose some paint colours and other details.
Ms. Vogel was on a ladder poking into the ceiling when the two realized that the beams and trusses above would allow them to open up the space to a dramatic vaulted ceiling.
“You can live large if you plan it properly,” says Ms. MacIntosh. “When you go up, you essentially visually double the size of the space.”
From there, the project turned into a major renovation that would transform the bungalow from top to bottom.
“It evolved,” says Ms. MacIntosh to laughter from Ms. Vogel.
The house today
Ms. MacIntosh has designed residential and commercial interiors in Toronto, Los Angeles, Miami and Tel Aviv.
Her work has included creating interiors for homes of 10,000-square-feet and developing compact model suites for developers.
“I’m always up for a design challenge,” says Ms. MacIntosh. “I work big and small.”
On Barker Avenue, she suggested reconfiguring the main floor with a new kitchen, dining area and living room.
The open plan places the area for lounging and relaxing at the front of the house. A new window overlooks the front porch and street.
Throughout the house, window openings were lined up to create a consistent appearance, Ms. MacIntosh says.
Strategically-placed lighting – including track lighting along the beam – illuminates art and collectibles. The LED lighting also allows Ms. Vogel to adjust the mood with dimmer switches.
“Light can make or break a space. I like to see moments where you’re creating focus,” says the designer.
The kitchen has sleek white cabinets, a chef’s range and an island.
The dining area’s bench and table fit the space perfectly, says Ms. MacIntosh, who designed the table so that it can be lowered when people are seated or raised to almost counter height.
“The space changes if you need it to,” she says.
The back wall is painted dark grey in order to define the space. A ladder provides access to a loft above. Ms. Vogel says the loft could be turned into a reading nook or a tiny guest bedroom with the addition of a rail for safety.
A door leads to a bedroom at the rear of the main level. Doors open to a Juliette balcony overlooking the backyard. The designer borrowed space from the kitchen to create an ensuite bathroom.
Ms. MacIntosh had a bench and hidden storage built into the walk-in shower. The designer found clever uses for any leftover space.
“We converted the chimney into a dream shoe closet,” says Ms. Vogel.
Downstairs, a complete overhaul created more living space.
“The basement was just a warren of small rooms,” recalls Ms. MacIntosh.
The team decided to underpin and waterproof the basement. They reconfigured the space to create a lounge, a second bedroom and a bathroom with natural light from a window. There’s also a kitchenette on that level.
The completed house has a tight colour palette of grey and white and other neutrals so that the flow continues throughout.
“I think it’s an artful space,” says Ms. MacIntosh.
While the renovation was still underway, Ms. Vogel’s plans took a turn and she met her husband. She now lives in California. Trudy Vogel, meanwhile, has decided to spend her retirement outside of Toronto.
The mother and daughter decided to list the house for sale.
Earlier this month, real estate agent Chris Neill of The Weir Team listed the property with an asking price of $899,000. After five days on the market, the Vogels received nine offers and the house sold for $1.38-million.
Ms. Vogel says she’s disappointed that she did not have a chance to spend much time in the newly-renovated home but she hopes that it will stand for a long time. The large backyard would accommodate an addition on the rear, she points out.
She still recalls the first time she visited the home with her mom.
“We lay on the floor together and looked up at the ceiling. That’s what we plan to do when we say goodbye.”
The best feature
The living area has a wall of custom-built bookshelves with shelves above and a library ladder which slides on a rail.
“A huge feature wall of books is your colour,” says Ms. MacIntosh.
Ms. Vogel says the wall serves as a spot for valued possessions.
“I’ve collected a lot of books over the years – I see books as art - and a lot of memories.”
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